Last month, my friend Megan and I loaded up my Outback and made way for Phoenix. I was in the middle of testing the 2015 Felt Virtue 1, and she the 2015 Marin Attack Trail C-XT9. She’s been borrowing a FS bike to race Enduro on this season, and doing rather well hitting every podium thus far, including the top step. This trip was very impromptu, with no real plan of attack. I have friends that live just outside the city I wanted to visit, and she wanted to explore new dirt and see something new. The Phoenix area (during the winter) is a great place to ride, relax and enjoy the desert terrain.
We opted to head out into the night to make the most of our time on the trail the next day. Orange County to Phoenix is roughly a six hour drive without much to look at. Even with cooler winter temps, it’s nice to avoid the desert sun whenever possible.
The following morning we headed for McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Having turned pedals at MM several times, it would be a good testing ground for the Felt. The 24 Hours of Fury and other XC races are held here. All of the trails are fun and fast, which is why I didn’t stop often enough to snap pics.
It was a gorgeous day in the desert. The temps reached higher than planned which cut our ride time down significantly. The MM loops provide trails for all levels of riding, save DH. The short, race, technical and Pemberton loops all feature singletrack, drops, swoops, chunk, and a few whoops if you aren’t careful. Don’t forget to pack extra tubes, cactus can pop up when you least expect it.
Be sure to pack plenty of hydration and nutrition when riding in the desert. Even during the winter, the desert is an extreme environment that should be respected. One moment you think you’re good to go, the next you are struggling. The Felt Virtue 1 ate up the desert with ease, proving to be a great choice for the chunky terrain. This trip turned me into a dropper post believer. Until this trip, I considered them to be an expense not necessary for my style of riding. Boy was I wrong. Having that option makes it hard to go back to without. Read my full review of the bike here.
Megan had a blast on her Marin test bike, she loved the 27.5 tires, comfortable suspension and wide bars. Though, the 66.5 degree head tube angle designed for Enduro riding proved to be overkill for MM.
I honestly think I could live off blueberry CLIF Bars.
The weatherman told us it would be a nice breezy 73 degree day. Well, sometime around 11am the temps hit the high 80s and we were seeking shade wherever we could find it. As we made our way back to the parking lot, we spotted a newly built pump track. Megan couldn’t help herself and just kept screaming, “SICK JUMPS!”.
The next morning we decided to leave the bikes at the hotel and do a little exploring. Heading for the Superstition Mountains, we stopped at Goldfield Ghost Town. Set in the 1890’s, Goldfield has everything to make you feel like you’re back in the Old West. A real gold mine, carriage rides, saloon, iron working shops, jail, and even a bordello.
Most of the townspeople were friendly, aside from the NO PICTURES signs posted about. I didn’t want to “upset the locals”, so I stuck to pictures that were allowed.
Goldfield is a great place to stop with your family. Kids would love it and even adults will have a good time. The feel of the town is authentic, but the people don’t seem as welcoming as they were during my last visit here a few years ago. It could have been that we visited on a Wednesday, as weekends are their big money makers. But I would think that would make them more hungry to keep people around during the week. Regardless, we spent a good hour walking the town and then made our way to Tortilla Flat.
The drive from Goldfield to Tortilla Flat is beautiful, passing by Canyon Lake. There are plenty of spots to pull off the road safely to snap photos. If you venture this way, keep alert of the bridges, they are not wide enough for two cars. Not sure why they would build them this narrow as it caused a back up both directions.
Tortilla Flat started out as a stagecoach stop in 1904. The original buildings still stand flocking tourists year around. As I mentioned, the drive through Tonto National Forest is breathtaking and if you own a 4WD vehicle, I would recommend continuing on past town. There are some great dirt roads that lead to Fish Creek Hill and beyond I have taken in the past. Easily done with an AWD car as well, just watch for loose turns. I would love to have adventured on as the trails would be no problem for my Subaru Outback, but our time was limited.
The Superstition Restaurant and Saloon is well known and recognized by Arizona travelers. This is a popular rest stop for tourists and motorcycle groups. You could spend as much time reading dollar bill notes stapled to the walls as you would tipping back a few tall ones.
It was time to eat and we wanted to head back into town to visit some local bike shops before the day closed. My friend Bo told me Porkopolis, a new BBQ joint in Chandler. I love me some good BBQ so the choice was a no brainer.
I had the pulled pork and brisket with a side of corn bread. Megan enjoyed the chicken and brisket with mac n cheese. The food was excellent and priced right. Both the bartender and waiter were kind and welcoming, and the food arrived hot and plentiful. The food reminded me of Lucille’s, without the high prices. Definitely check them out if you’re in the area and don’t miss the Porkopolis Outdoor BBQ Rules on your way out.
From there, I wanted to take Megan to visit my two favorite bike shops in the Phoenix area. Slippery Pig Bike Shop is located just north of downtown Phoenix. Like the other shop I will get to, both shops represent what I look for in a good local bike shop. Plenty of brands represented, custom bikes strewn about, good attitudes and character. I hate to poke a jab at some of my friends who work in “concept” shops, but they just don’t have that warm home feeling a shop like this does. I enjoy shops that make me want to stick around, chat and talk bikes. Concept stores typically feel like one-stop shopping experiences. Visit, buy what you want, and leave.
Lots of custom Moots, Salsa, Niner, and even a pair of REEB bikes made me smile. I’d been waiting to see a REEB bike in person for some time. I was a little shocked at the amount of custom Fatbike’s found. It seems the desert folk are loving them as much as our frosty winter friends in the north.
Form there we made our way to Rage Cycles in Scottsdale. Rage is my #1 favorite shop in the area. What sets them apart from others are the guys behind the counter. You know everyone that works here rides, a lot. From the custom builds to the pump track in the back, there’s something for all at Rage.
Come looking for bikes, spend hours looking at the paraphernalia on the counters and walls. My kinda spot.
Don’t forget to come around the back during your visit. Next to the pump track there is a separate building housing all of their beach cruisers. I was bummed to learn we missed the weekly pump track races by a day. This shop has tons of attitude, a wealth of knowledge and if there was a tap, I’d probably never leave.
I hadn’t planned on making any cigar related stops during this trip until I loaded up the Cigar Aficianado Where To Smoke App. The app works great on iPhone and desktop to locate a place grab a stick or share one with friends over a pint. I was pleased to find the Fox Cigar Bar just a few miles from our hotel.
Fox turned out to be one seriously awesome cigar shop. The large walk-in humidor had nearly every name in the industry including a few house blends. The bar was packed serving every scotch, bourbon, and whiskey you could think of with over 100 labels represented. Their tap of 14 craft beers shares small-batch limited and speciality brews from small producers around the country. The prices were fair and the staff was very welcoming and friendly. Don’t forget to bring your growler in to have it filled and if you’re after cigar accessories, there is an entire wall dedicated to cutters, lighters, travel humidors and more.
On top of the generously sized main room, there is an outside smoking area with misters for the summer months and a private members lounge next door. I peeked in and noticed several oversized leather chairs, a bar top for working on your laptop, several big screen TVs and private lockers. On my next trip I will ask for a tour. If I was a local, this would be shop. Fox is worth the trip into Gilbert if you find yourself passing through any part of the Phoenix area.
I enjoyed a beer with a Perdomo 20th while Megan had a glass of wine. We met a nice man from Ethiopia who went on to tell us about a woman he met shortly after coming to the states. He went on an on about how beautiful she is, and how she helped him find a job. She worked for a staffing agency that helped place Iman into a solid job. He brought her flowers in thanks and was shocked when she asked him to dinner. He continued to rave about her beauty and how amazed he was that she would take to a foreign man who first met her when he barely had a dime to his name and no job. I told him, “True Love is fickle, when it’s right, it’s right. The ones that find you even when you’re down are the keepers.” Meeting people like Iman and sharing stories are one of the things I love most about my cigar shop experiences. What a wonderful conclusion to a fun trip!
McDowell Mountain Regional Park – Website – Map Link
Goldfield Ghost Town – Website – Map Link
Tortilla Flat – Website – Map Link
Porkopolis – Website – Map Link
Slippery Pig Bicycles – Website – Map Link
Rage Cycles – Website – Map Link
Fox Cigar Bar – Website – Map Link
Hopefully, I gave you some good stops for your next trip to Arizona. Something for everyone to enjoy. Do me a favor, if you stop into any of these places, tell them you heard about them here. Thanks for sharing!